Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Hakeem Al-Araibi will walk free after Bahrain drops extradition request

Hakeem Al-Araibi will walk free after Bahrain drops extradition request

Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi is set to be released from custody after Thai authorities withdrew extradition proceedings against him.

Araibi, a former Bahraini national youth team player, was granted refugee status in Australia after fleeing charges in the oil-rich kingdom connected to Arab Spring protests.

A similar campaign was launched on behalf of Araibi by human rights groups, fellow soccer players and other activists - including the heroes who helped save a Thai soccer team trapped in a cave past year - with the hashtag #SaveHakeem.

He eventually made it to Australia, where he was granted refugee status.

Before the soccer player's release, Thailand's Foreign Ministry last week released a defensive statement in which it claimed that Thai authorities "would not have become involved in the issue had we not received the red notice alert from the Australian Interpol and the subsequent formal request by Bahrain for his arrest and extradition". He has been living in Melbourne, where he plays for a semi-professional soccer team.

"My thanks go to the wonderful people of Thailand for your support and to the Thai (government) for upholding global law", Foster posted on Twitter shortly after the news.

"We have been informed that Bahrain wants to withdraw the (extradition) request. if they don't want him, we have no reason to keep him here", he told AFP.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has said Araibi was tortured by Bahraini authorities because of his brother's political activities during the 2011 protests.

"Many wonderful people stepped forward to help Hakeem".

A journalist from the BBC said negotiations between Thailand and Bahrain led to the agreement to drop the extradition request.

The state-run Bahrain News Agency reported Sunday that Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa had a phone call with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, but offered no specifics on their discussions.

Al-Araibi was originally wanted by Bahrain over the vandalising of a police station in 2012. "They all deserve to be in front of camera now, not only me".

Morrison said he was "pleased" with the outcome and thanked the Thai government, as well as Australian football identity Craig Foster for his advocacy on the case. Her nightmare will shortly be at an end.

Federico Addiechi, a representative of Fifa, football's world governing body, attended a Feb 4 hearing and said the organisation would continue to support Mr Araibi.

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